I'm a 1 and occasionally 2 man shop that keeps pretty busy just on referrals. Since I usually am busy I keep putting off some of the basic business things….like setting up a a website for one! I'm back to thinking about this and wondering what others are doing? Did you build your own, or hire someone. Do you maintain it yourself?
I'll say upfront that I'm not particularly computer savvy. I did put together a FB page for the business which was pretty easy though. So now I'm wondering if I should attempt the same with the website. Though obviously there's a lot more going on with the website and getting a domain name and…..well whatever else I'll need?
If nothing else, a website can be a permanent and comprehensive portfolio, accessible anytime, anywhere. Really not that difficult. Register.com and many others makes it easy to pick a domain name. Web hosting companies will do it all, including help you build the site. ( I use ipage for hosting). Found a local person on craigs list to re-build my site, and recently re-cast it again so I can add new projects myself. I don't want to spend any more time than I have to on the site, and this latest iteration works great. Email me if you want a referral to someone who can build your site at moderate cost and with minimal time investment on your part.
As mentioned in an earlier post, photo quality is paramount. It will be expensive to have a professional photographer do the work, so maybe you can find someone to barter with, or take a class. Actually, quality is the reason I don't have a website for my part time work since I retired. When I did have a custom woodworking business in the day, I would carry a professionally prepared portfolio. The website must also have the same quality.
If you are looking low budget, one option is to register a domain through godaddy, and set up a low cost plan with them (I think $5 / month or so, including the domain). They have a website builder program.
One caution with the "online builder" programs is that they are usually not portable. So if you change hosting providers (or a free one shuts down), you may have trouble moving the site to another provider.
If you are comfortable with Facebook, the website could just be a few pages, pointing people to FB for examples of your recent work.
I should point out I have owned My site name for 14 years thru network solutions, we switched site providers once. that is when you learn about pointing !
using Weebly (pro) it is an easy site builder and I have several sites, most "Website builders" I have seen are less creative and are not going to rep me the way I like, there is a charge every time I change pics etc. this weekend I wanted to upgrade a bit and get that Ugly pic of me hanging ontop of My CNC (the one my wife has on the refridgerator with the caption "Jimi and his Mistress") off of my page. this took all of 5 minutes and cost me Zero !!
I spent a bit of time last night browsing through different web hosting companies and other informational pages to try and educate myself. I'm feeling like maybe it's worth a try to get a simple page up there myself and see how that goes. I can always add or hire someone to upgrade down the road.
I have several projects already professionally photographed. I was lucky enough to find someone very talented and affordable. Her photographs are certainly magazine quality and the irony is that one of my projects has already been used on someones website and published in a magazine….just not with my name! (That's a different and ongoing story though.) I will have plenty of crappy pics I've taken myself to put up as well. I think once I have a site up it will motivate me to call the photographer in again. I do have several other projects I think are worthy of photographing.
Lastly I should say that my main reason for wanting a website is as a portfolio. I don't believe the type of work I do is conductive to trying to "sell" via a website. I just want to have a more professional appearance for my business and have a place where people can see my work before we meet.
My site was built with Wordpress. I did not do the initial build, but it's pretty easy to add and change things now that its been done.
I agree that good photography is key (says the guy with a degree in photography and really poor quality pictures on his website). My site is still under construction, but when time permits, getting better photos is top priority.
I also looked at Squarespace.com for hosting/templates, they've got really nicely designed sites and good reviews, but the site editor is a little tough.
On a whim I decided to do a web album on Picasa. Since it is part of Google after I posted some pictures of completed jobs I found that it sent me to to top of the listings for cabinetmakers in the area. Spent no money, did it all in about an hour, and it has done nothing but bring me business ever since.
If you really want to take the sting out of making a website look at weebly.com we use them to make small websites - its as easy as using MSWord and they even let you add your own domain name for a small charge... as a pro designer im seriously impressed with it and the results are great.
I've been doing work with Weebly and I've found it to be super simple to use. It may not have the most customization available but it works for what I need it to accomplish. It's a lot of drag and drop, which is pretty cool.
Having a website helps you get started but you will also need to ensure you get some of the SEO work done. Little things like naming your photos before uploading them will help. Fill in the "Alt-Text" for the photos with good keywords for your work.
Another good tip is to get lots of high quality citations. This is getting your business listed in directories across the internet. I've found success using Yext for this service. It's about $500/yr but they have the highest quality citations that always seem to get found by Google. These will really help to get you to the top of the local map listings.
You can get some pretty good DIY jobs these days, like shopify. However I would always suggest using a pro, even if they are using a DIY platform, as they can ensure its looks perfect. Appearance is everything these days.
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